Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Today’s top story is about changing the way we grow things by making sure we give back (regenerate) the environment, particularly the soil, and not strip it (degenerate). It’s a blog post by the founder of Ecosia, a search engine that I’ve been using for years. The use the money made from your searches to plant trees. Neat. In other news, Trump is struggles to make sense (again) faced with intelligent questioning on climate change; a project recruiting indigenous people to document biodiversity using smartphones in a remote region on the border of Peru and Brazil; a suggestion that we should me making more of our waste by capturing gas; and an interview with the Senegalese regenerating their ecosystems (one of the places Ecosia plants trees).

Top Story

Agriculture is broken, but we can fix it | Ecosia
I remember cycling past corn fields on my way to school. What ten-year-old me didn’t realise, of course, is that the huge machines and the beautiful, tidy monotony of the fields were part of the world’s biggest problem; that 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions are related to the agricultural sector; that agriculture, and animal agriculture in particular, is the number one driver of deforestation worldwide. [1] Some years ago, I had another realisation: it doesn’t have to be like this. There are agricultural models that produce more and better food while actually removing CO2 from the atmosphere. The global transition from “destructive agriculture” towards “regenerative agriculture” is possible, and it is necessary.

Climate Change

‘Show me the scientists’: Trump reiterates his climate change doubts | The Guardian (Video 1:10)
USA – The US president has reaffirmed his doubts about climate change, claiming scientists are politically motivated. In an interview with the CBS programme 60 Minutes, Trump said he no longer believed climate change was a hoax but he thought its impacts would not be lasting

Environment and Biodiversity

For an Amazon tribe, phone cameras shine a light on their wildlife | Mongabay
Armed with smartphone cameras, teams of indigenous Matsés people have partnered with North American herpetologists to inventory the reptiles and amphibians of their territory along the remote divide between Peru and Brazil. The easy-to-use cameras are robust, small enough to carry while climbing a tree or crossing a stream, store thousands of images, and can be recharged with low-cost solar panels. The teams have built a database of more than 2,000 photos, including several new species, and they have expanded the known distributions of other species.

A leaf mimic toad requesting a selfie on the project’s iPhone camera. Image courtesy of Acaté Amazon Conservation.

A leaf mimic toad requesting a selfie on the project’s iPhone camera. Image courtesy of Acaté Amazon Conservation.

What’s lurking below: Fighting the weird and not-so-wonderful pests in Tauranga waters | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – More than 40 marine pests have been identified by experts as lurking in the waters of Tauranga Harbour at any one time. Asian paddle crabs, sea squirts, and Mediterranean fan worms are among the contingent of introduced or invasive species that could have massive implications for the region’s infrastructure. Yet, according to Dr Kaeden Leonard, most people are unaware of the dangers below the water’s surface. That needed to change, he said.

Economy and Business

Banks will not be forced to reveal climate change risks they face | The Guardian
UK – The Bank of England has stopped short of forcing financial companies to disclose the potential risks they face from climate change, despite growing calls from campaigners for such action.

Net Zero: BT announces 2045 net zero emissions pledge | Business Green
UK – BT has set its sights on becoming a net zero carbon business by 2045, citing the increased need for rapid greenhouse gas emissions in the wake of last week’s clarion call from the world’s top climate change scientists. Announcing the new pledge today to coincide with the launch of the government’s Green Great Britain Week, the UK telecoms giant said the new 2045 net zero goal would build on its existing Science-Based Target to reduce its 2016 emissions 87 per cent by 2030.

PepsiCo signs deal to introduce 100% recycled plastic packaging | Climate Action
PepsiCo have signed a deal with Loop Industries to introduce 100 per cent recycled plastic packaging. PepsiCo, who own brands such as Walkers and Pepsi, will purchase production capacity from Loop’s joint venture facility in the United States and incorporate Loop’s PET plastic, which is 100 per cent recycled material, into its product packaging by 2020.

Global cruise ship company taps US wind power to offset emissions | One Step Off The Grid
Global vacation cruise company Royal Caribbean Cruises will soon offset up to 12 per cent of its emissions, after inking a deal with US energy company Southern Power to buy the output of a proposed 200MW wind farm. The NYSE-listed cruise ship owner and operator, which currently claims around a 22 per cent share of the global ocean-liner market, announced the agreement late last week. It is – pardon the pun – but a drop in the ocean of the company’s sustainability efforts, as a leader in an industry known for its hefty contribution to air pollution.

Waste and the Circular Economy

New Antarctic expedition runs on solar and plastic waste | RenewEconomy
Liesbeth and Edwin ter Velde are heading to Antarctica in a vehicle named Solar Voyager made from plastic waste and powered by the sun in an attempt to explore the planet’s southernmost continent and show that “we have all the technology we need for a sustainable world.” The Solar Voyager expedition is one of several nameplate initiatives being planned by non-profit foundation Clean2Antarctica, created by Dutch couple Liesbeth and Edwin ter Velde. The Foundation’s goal is to raise and inspire awareness of sustainable alternatives for everyday living and, in doing so, to accelerate the transition from a “linear to a circular society.”

How biomethane can help turn gas into a renewable energy source | The Conversation
Gas has lower greenhouse emissions than most other fuels, and the gas used in power generation has about half the emissions of the current electricity grid. Even so, natural gas can do more to help Australia meet its carbon-reduction targets. An industry document released last year, Gas Vision 2050, explains how new technologies such as biomethane and hydrogen can make that happen, by replacing conventional natural gas with low-emission alternative fuels.

Multiple products of anaerobic digestion. Modified from ADBA with permission

Multiple products of anaerobic digestion. Modified from ADBA with permission


WA VPP project promises 90% solar self-consumption for cost of “a coffee a day” | One Step Off The Grid
AUSTRALIA – A community energy project based on the south-west coast of Western Australia is offering households an opportunity to become 90 per cent renewable “for the price of a coffee a day” as part of a privately funded, potentially 6.5MW virtual power plant.

The “other” big battery that has quietly changed thinking about the grid | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – The Newman battery storage project, installed just over a year ago in a private-only grid in the Pilbara serving mostly mining industry customers in Australia’s north-west… has shown that it is faster, smarter, cheaper, and more reliable than the fossil fuel generators around it. In this instance, the battery has done what most experts thought it could not do – provide sufficient inertia to the local grid in the absence of thermal generators. “There is no real difference when compared to mechanical (rotating mass) systems,” the compact says.

Food Systems

Would you eat insects to save the planet from global warming? | The Guardian
The thought of rising sea levels and more intense heatwaves are enough to keep you up at night. But while we all know the situation is getting more serious, most of us are preoccupied with work, doctor’s appointments and paying bills – and these immediate, visceral worries win every time… Reducing our meat intake is crucial to avoiding climate breakdown, since food production accounts for about a quarter of all human-related greenhouse gas emissions, and is predicted to rise. In western countries, this means eating 90% less beef and five times as many beans and pulses.

Watching the wildlife return: Q&A with a rural Senegalese river monitor | Mongabay
SENEGAL – In the mid-2000s, villagers from the Jola ethnic group in the Casamance region of Senegal noticed a decline in local fish stocks and forest cover, and an increase in water salinity, all of which threatened their food supply and way of life. They formed a fishing association in 2006 that grew into a community-wide conservation group known as the Kawawana ICCA in 2010, and have since turned their dire situation around by reviving traditional fishing and forestry methods.

A fisherman pulls in a barracuda at sunset on the waters of the Casamance River, accompanied by an apprentice. Image by Jennifer O’Mahony for Mongabay.

A fisherman pulls in a barracuda at sunset on the waters of the Casamance River, accompanied by an apprentice. Image by Jennifer O’Mahony for Mongabay.

Lidl pledges to make entire soy supply ‘sustainable’ | Business Green
UK – Lidl has promised to ensure its entire soy supply comes from sustainable certified sources from this month, in what it claims is the most ambitious green sourcing policy for soy of any UK supermarket. The discount retailer announced on Friday it will ensure all its soy comes from sustainable, deforestation-free sources, describing the move as a “step change” in commitments to creating a sustainable soy industry.